SINGAPORE: A doctor who was jailed for sedating, molesting and taking pictures of his patient half-naked will no longer be able to practise when he is released from prison.
Aesthetic doctor Tan Kok Leong, 53, was struck off by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) after a disciplinary tribunal found him to have administered stupefying drugs with the criminal intent of committing molest.
He had taken his patient back to a hotel and injected him with two drugs - a painkiller and a sedative - before molesting him and taking pictures of himself doing so.
According to the council's grounds of decision released on Tuesday (Jun 18), Tan had "cynically exploited his knowledge of and access to restricted drugs to facilitate his own nefarious criminal intent, with total disregard to the risk to the patient’s health".
The SMC described the case as "unprecedented", given the number of charges for which Tan was convicted, the serious nature of the offences and the brazenness with which they were committed.
MOLESTED PATIENT AFTER TWO LIPOSUCTION PROCEDURES
Tan had performed a liposuction procedure on his patient at Life Source Medical Centre in Novena Medical Centre on Jun 6, 2013, during which he molested the victim while he was undergoing the procedure.
During that instance, two clinical assistants witnessed Tan putting his hand under the surgical drape and touching the patient's genitals.
One assistant was so disgusted she left the room "in anger" because she "didn't want to see more", the court was told. During this time, the victim's fiancee, who was also a doctor, was in the room but did not spot Tan's actions because she was administering a nose filler injection on the patient.
About a month later, on Jul 5, Tan performed another liposuction on the patient. He told the patient he had booked a hotel room at Oasia Hotel for the patient "to recuperate".
At around 11pm that evening, Tan injected the victim with a "stupefying drug" and a painkiller. After the patient had fallen asleep, Tan undressed him, touched the victim's genitals, and took photos of himself doing so.
Both men stayed in the hotel room until the next day, when Tan again administered the same drugs on the victim. He repeated his actions that evening.
During his trial, the court was told by an expert witness that it was improper to sedate a patient in a non-clinical environment.
In total, Tan stored 21 photos of the patient, labelled with his name, on his mobile phone. Some of these photos captured the patient's face, together with his exposed genitals.
"These photographs were taken without the patient's consent or knowledge," the council wrote in its grounds. Tan never showed the patient the pictures, and the photos only came to light after Tan's partner in his medical practice chanced upon them.
"DEFECT IN CHARACTER"
Tan was sentenced to 42 months’ jail in 2016, before his jail term was extended to 54 months in 2017 after prosecutors filed an appeal.
He also had faced charges brought by the SMC after being convicted of the offences.
"His actions go beyond the pale, and reveal a defect of character that leaves us in no doubt that the respondent is unfit to be a medical practitioner," the tribunal wrote to the SMC in its findings.
Despite being found guilty in court, Tan "declined to plead guilty (to SMC's charges) as he wished to maintain his position that he was innocent of the charges". This was even though he confirmed through his lawyers that he did not intend to contest any of the council's charges.
More than two years after his conviction, on Dec 3, 2018, Tan finally admitted to the tribunal that he had "exhausted all possible avenues to vindicate himself" and would not raise any further arguments to the charges.
In its sentencing, the council said the removal of a doctor’s name from the medical register is the most severe penalty and not one to be imposed lightly.
“It is axiomatic that patients place their bodily and physical integrity in the trust and care of their treating physician,” the tribunal said.
“Any breach of this trust brings irreparable harm to the reputation and good standing of the medical profession as a whole.
“It follows that any medical practitioner convicted of a sexual offence in relation to a patient should, by that very act, be considered to be unfit to practice in this hallowed profession."
The SMC described Tan's case as one of the worst that had come before it.
MANHANDLED VICTIM AT HIS "WHIM AND FANCY"
In mitigation, Tan’s lawyer said his client, a practitioner for more than 25 years, was a "pioneer in the field of liposuction, having introduced laser-assisted liposuction and ultrasound-assisted liposuction to Singapore and Southeast Asia".
He was also noted to have been active in charity work, having volunteered to remove tattoos from ex-prisoners and travelling to Croatia in 2014 to aid flood victims.
In light of Tan’s "distinguished career”, his lawyer argued for a two-year suspension from practice.
The SMC ruled that the “degree of depravity” involved in the case in which Tan “essentially detained the patient without his permission for two days, and manhandled him at his whim and fancy in the most degrading manner”, was too great.
It said a senior doctor "of great competence" should not receive any "special accommodation" but that Tan's seniority had only served to magnify the breach of trust.
"We were of the firm mind that the degree of culpability in the commission of the sexual offences was so great that there should be no doubt that the respondent should be stripped of his licence to practice on the basis of this ground alone," the council concluded.